Eating less calories than how many you’ve just burned during your workout is a no-brainer, but where those calories come from counts just as much. Carbs and protein should be the biggest parts of your first meal after a workout.
Fatty foods are among the worst foods to eat after working out, but there are more restrictions your should know. Besides paying attention to portion control, you’ll also have to choose what you eat carefully. Rewarding yourself with food after a workout is a bad idea, since the things that you’re probably craving the most aren’t so good for your body right after you leave the gym.
French fries are one of the worst choices you could make, but all fast food should be avoided after exercising. The reason you should stay away from all fatty foods, especially those rich in saturated fat, is that your digestion will slow down, allowing for more fat storage, so banish fast food after leaving the gym as one of the worst foods to eat after working out.
Even though they seem like a great idea for a snack after a workout, raw vegetables are a bad idea, for very different reasons than fatty foods. They simply don’t provide enough calories to help your muscles bounce back and keep your energy levels up. If you absolutely want to munch on some celery or carrot sticks, add a high-protein dip to them, either a natural unsweetened yogurt, hummus, or even a nut butter.
Salty Junk Food
Pretzels and chips are also among the worst foods to eat after working out. If you’re sweating a lot at the gym, you do need to replenish your electrolytes, but sodium is the last on the list. Salty foods can actually contribute to further depletion of your potassium levels, and that’s not what you want after exercising. Instead, have a banana or dried fruit.
Chocolate can sometimes be irresistible after you’ve exerted yourself at the gym, but the worst choice you can make is milk chocolate. With a hit content of sugar and low in cocoa, milk chocolate is just empty calories after a workout. Choose dark chocolate, with over 70-75% cocoa, in order to get all the antioxidant benefits without too much sugar.
Fatty and salty, pizza is one of the worst foods to eat after working out, since it basically cancels all your efforts. Even a slice will do, so simply put it out of mind until later. If you’re craving a little cheese, opt for a low-fat variety and pair it with whole grain crackers or another healthy type of carb.
Energy Bars and Drinks
You’re better off skipping any food or drink that has “energy” in its name right after working out. They might be a good idea before, even if they contain sugar, but never after. You could opt for a sugar-free energy bar, but it’s still a lot of calories that are going in. If replenishing electrolytes is your priority, skip the energy or sports drinks, and just drink water or coconut water.
They’re definitely carbs, so they should be fine after hitting the gym, but pastries usually has either high levels of sugar or a lot of sodium, so they’re one of the worst foods to eat after working out. Whole grain toast or crackers are the right kind of carbs that your body needs after exercising. Pastries usually have a lot of extra calories that will undo your hard work.
See also: 10 Foods Experts Say Not to Eat
Bacon and Eggs
Your muscles do need protein to rebuild themselves after the gym, but eggs and bacon are bad options for a post-workout meal. They’re both high in fats, especially bacon, so get your protein fix some other way. Dairy and beans can offer protein with less fats, and the fiber that you get from a vegetable or legume source of protein will aid your digestion.
Sodas and Fruit Juice
It’s not hard to understand why sodas and other sweet drinks are just as bad as the worst foods to eat after working out, but many believe fruit juice is a great option. Even if you’re drinking freshly squeezed juice, you’re still getting a lot of sugar, without the fiber that’s lost in the discarded pulp. Stick to whole fruit for a healthy and naturally sweet snack.